The story of Chinese superstitions has come a long way. Demographics, religion, cultural influences, media, and lifestyle all play critical roles in determining the extent of which one believes in Chinese superstitions. Many people believe that the Chinese are a superstitious lot. Indeed they are, and they themselves admit to this. Why not believe in something that may give one better luck?
However, there have been recent trends that show that the Chinese youths are losing this traditional tagline.
After thorough research, our team has come out with some interesting results.
In this section, we examine the factors that lead to these trends.
With more Chinese turning into followers of the Christ, we see that they have abandoned their original cultural roots. One person we surveyed commented, “My religion (Christianity)… forbids me from practicing these superstitions.” It seems that religion is indeed a crucial factor in influencing people, especially the young. Most Chinese superstitions and festive occasions have religious roots and tie-ins, especially with Buddhism. When religion and culture clashes, one has to be forsaken in order to achieve harmony. The individual will have to decide which is more important to him.
One example would be the origins of the notorious Hungry Ghost festival, which falls during the 7th month of the lunar calendar. The festival has links with Buddhism. In this case, will Chinese-Christians choose to believe in their religion, or will they heed the advice of their elders? If they choose the former, will they totally forget about this 'Ghost Month'?
The media has seen an influx of foreign influence. American firms and products have chalked up the bulk of commercial time and space. The society has been exposed to more Western culture than local culture. Even local Chinese-based firms are turning more 'American' to attract a larger pool of demand.
With this increased 'McDomination' occurring throughout Chinese countries, its people are becoming more Westernized. American pop music top music charts in Singapore, Hollywood movies are becoming box-office hits in China, Internet users in Hong Kong are surfing American web-sites daily, fashion brands from America are filling up Taiwanese wardrobes, while Western food outlets are widely common in Malaysia. Music, movies and web-sites spread an American social culture which appears to be more attractive than Chinese superstitions. Friday the 13th has become one of the most dreaded occasions, surpassing other Chinese 'unlucky' days. Christmas has since become more popular with children than Chinese New Year.
It seems that age is a much more important factor as compared to gender. Significantly different trends have emerged across the different age groups, but there appears to be less variation between the two sexes.
Elderly folks seem to be more attached to the Chinese superstitions. However, we observed a sharp decline in the belief of Chinese superstitions in the post 1975-ers. We believe that this serves as concrete evidence to prove that westernization has played a critical role in deciding these trends in these young minds. These post 1975-ers were teenagers when the globalization revolution sparked off.
Some say that this trend is good, as it shows that more people nowadays are becoming more aware of scientific truths rather than myths. However, do the positive aspects outweigh the negative aspects? Judging from the response we received from the people whom we surveyed and interviewed, the answer is 'no'.
What are the negative impacts?
- Erosion and undermining of Chinese culture
- Loss of Chinese traditional values such as filial piety and respect for elders
- Chinese festive occasions becoming less well-known
- Chinese people becoming less Chinese in their way of life
The Chinese region stretches from China, Taiwan, down to South-East Asia, in places such as Malaysia and Singapore. Within these regions, we see that Chinese superstitions and beliefs are much more than small daily happenings. Major events are affected by these minor superstitions. Take for example the wedding examples which were demonstrated in Shanghai and Singapore.
In both cases, the method of selecting an auspicious affected so many couples and their wedding associates. Major parts of lifestyles are affected by Chinese superstitions. In our research walk around various parts of Singapore, we noticed that many shops and homes have altars placed within their premises. These altars are a token of respect for one's ancestors. Imagine if, a decade from now, we see a complete elimination of these altars. Does this means that the Chinese no longer respect and remember their ancestral roots? Does this signify that they have lost their original identity?
Just imagine the dire consequences if a region of more than 1.2 billion people lose their roots.
The Chinese culture is one of a long and illustrious history, spanning more than 5,000 years. What it has to offer to world culture is plentiful. It enriches global culture with its values, principles, and rich traditions. Its values have already been spread around the globe through movies, music, food, and other forms of media.
If the future Chinese generations lose their ethnicity, they not only lose their own identity, but the world also loses out. The short term impact is a homogenous global culture, where we see western urban cities even in the heart of Shanghai. This is good for businesses, because communications will be made easier for all. Travelers will also fit into Chinese cities easily. However, in the long run, what will we stand to gain? What will happen to those Chinese values? What will happen to all the enriching cultural experiences? The foreigners have as much to lose as the Chinese. If the Chinese lose all these interesting aspects of their lives, nobody benefits.
Moreover, Chinese beliefs have resulted in many sex stereotypes in our society today. The Chinese believe that the males are dominant as they can carry on the family lineage name, whereas the females will only be married away to another family, hence, males are favoured. This has led to society stereotyping that males are more important than females, something which we disagree totally. Both sexes are important in their own ways, and we should not let such beliefs affect our mindsets. Moreover, with many of such beliefs and superstitions being refuted by Science these days, we should instead adopt the perspective that everyone is equal - and that, it is what he or she does that makes him special.
The world has already witnessed the loss of a magnificent ancient empire, and now, its time for us to stop the loss of another one for our children. As for us, we should not trust Chinese beliefs and superstitions revolving around gender stereotypes. Such adverse thinking will only lead to the degradation of society, something everyone should strive to prevent from happening.
Nobody can predict the future. Not the academics, or the scholars, or the politicians, or the old man next door, and either can us. But we can do our best to think of measures to hopefully prevent erosion of the Chinese culture. According to our research, we realized that the family has the most important role to play in passing down Chinese superstitions.
What we can do is limited, but still important. Youths and adults alike have similar tasks if they want to preserve and enrich this tradition even further. We can start by reading up more on Chinese festivals, such as the Lunar New Year and the Qing Ming festival, and then enlighten our friends and younger family members about the origins and traditional practices of these occasions. Through small acts like these, Chinese culture can go a long way.
While less common social Chinese superstitions are less likely to be passed on through family lines, we can still pass down the more common ones, such as wearing 'lucky-coloured' clothes during auspicious events. Whether or not Chinese superstitions are beneficial, and whether or not they are true, we can be assured that they were and still will be part and parcel of the lives of the Chinese.